Welcome to The Next Issue with your host, The Power Trip. As I mentioned in my video last week, this week's issue is covering variant or alternate covers. I went into the history of the variant there so please feel free to check it out! This week, I’m going to go into the fun of hunting, the importance of grading and condition, and a story from my childhood. You see, these collectible covers, as they are also known, have helped bring about much attention over the years. When the variant issue first began, it was simply an alternate cover picture to the book. Sometimes the alternate picture would have fewer copies printed, thus making it a more valuable edition. But over the years, the comic industry has really stepped up its game in what can be done to a book cover. The first real "big hit" I can remember seeing in my youth was the widely popular Death of Superman. During this time period, you could tell if you had a first, second, third, or even fourth printing on DC’s books by the Roman numeral on the top left of the cover next to the issue number as well as an alternate color on the Title lettering. But with the actual death issue itself there were a couple of extra twists. You had a poly-bagged version which came with an armband, poster, and a copy of the book with a gravestone cover, and then there was the “platinum” issue which had a much shinier, reflective superman logo on the front. The Poly-bag issues were printed less than the normal book, but still a decent amount (as several comic store owners seem to have several of these in their boxes these days) while the platinum edition was printed to a rarer extent.
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This was my first real taste of the variant cover, and it was a sorrowful tale. I was in junior high at the time and actually had a comic store just five minutes walking distance from the school doors. There I had a file, or pull box, that I would get a couple issues saved in every week or so. I had been frequenting the store for a couple of years and had only slightly been following the “Doomsday” story arc in the Superman titles. Honestly, my first taste of the story was at a grocery store magazine section back when they also received comic books. So of course, I tell the man behind the counter that I wanted an issue saved for me in my file. He had asked if I wanted the platinum edition, and I squealed a yes. I had saved up a decent allowance over the weeks and knew I could easily get the book. In case anyone is curious, the platinum edition sold for twenty five dollars right off the shelf when it released. You only see that today when a cover is very, very rare upon release. When I arrived to pick up the book I discovered that only a limited amount had been sent and while I had one in my box at one point, the gentleman who ran the store had sold my copy to someone who was there earlier with cash on hand. He tried to tell me that since I was a kid, there was no guarantee I would have the money to buy the issue, and so he sold it to someone who had the money. Realistically, someone probably offered him more than the asking price and he sold it knowing he would get more profit.
Comics have such great stories for me to get lost in. I love escaping into a world of adventure, powers, mystery, and love. Each week is spent with anticipation for the next book to come out so I can find out what happened after the cliff hanger of the last issue! But that’s not the only surprise that awaits me each Wednesday afternoon. For several of us, we also look forward to what the next collectors issue will be.
To leave you on a high note, I have a continuation to my sad story earlier. DC just had a giant story known as Convergence, and with many of these giant stories you have to know which issues will be worth it and which ones will only be money if sold with the others. Convergence issue zero had a very special 1/100 cover with two “Catwomen” on it. Usually the first and last issues (as they have the biggest reveals in comic stories these days) sell the best. I knew of this cover, but had forgotten to ask for it from my store. So I ran down and waited for them to unlock the door the day it came out. Lo and behold, there was one copy and I grabbed it. The book was going to be fourteen dollars roughly and I was seconds away from purchase, when the assistant manager mentioned how someone who had a file there had requested that book. It was never meant to be on the shelf, but had made it up there anyway. They asked me if I cared if they let the person who requested it have it for their file or that they could try to find him another copy. I took a deep breath and I handed it back to them. They asked me if I was sure, and I told them about what happend to me. I was not about to have that happen to someone else. I could only imagine a kid coming in to pick up this special version of this comic, much like myself, and being told that they got one copy in but sold it to someone else by mistake. I didn’t have the heart to do to someone else what had been done to me.
But if you truly want the full value, your best bet is a nine point eight. Yes, this is a point three difference, but that point three difference guarantees you the full amount of what you're asking for. Now given, only true die-hards are going to pay five hundred plus dollars for a comic book, but if you want that full amount, you had best have that book at the highest level. Now why nine point eight you may ask? Because no one and nothing is perfect, and ten’s are so very, very rare. Even if you take a comic straight off the shelf and have it sent to be graded through your comic store the day it releases, so many factors can, and will, affect its grade. Being shuffled around in the mail just from the comic creators to the store shelf, and handing it off to be graded. Notice I’m not mentioning the copies on the shelf itself as these have even less of a chance. If you have the store owner take the copy straight from the box...and they are not bagged and boarded when they first arrive from the companies, and then put straight into a sleeve and into a file or even mailed right then you are still, more than likely, getting a nine point eight. This is fine and dandy though as this is the assumed “best quality” you can get, given the circumstances. For anyone who chooses to jump into this fun little adventure, let me give you some tips. First, unless you are just really aiming on having a huge collection of collectible comics in storage for years, only strive to collect special covers on books tied to huge events: The Death of Superman, Batman: Knightfall, number one issues of potentially big books like Ultimate Spiderman. Second, if you're also an avid reader, always get a standard copy you can flip through and read so you don’t miss out on the awesome stories! Third, as I mentioned above, let the comic store owner know you want a special copy held for you and see if they will go ahead and send it off to be graded as soon as they get it. Grading a comic does cost money, but unless you are grading a very old comic, usually silver age or before, the cost is not that bad. twenty to thirty dollars depending on the store.
In the nineties, variants exploded on the scene. And today, they are making a comeback, as each month each book that comes out from almost every company has different covers drawn by different artists and is released in varying amounts. It has become a little harder to spot the books that will eventually be worth alot of money. Personally, I go by very particular factors that I’ve learned over the years. For special covers, the more the version of the book sells for on the shelf (i.e. depending on how many of that cover the store can get: 1/100, 1/50, 1/500) the more likely it will be worth some money later on. And the harder standard to go by is the “number one” issue. This is difficult, as companies keep relaunching books all the time. Marvel has restarted a few of their books with new number ones of the same book three times in one year to work around their big summer event. This standard takes a keen eye, and honestly, some experience to truly pull off. The first issue of Ultimate Spiderman was worth well over a hundred dollars a year after release. At first glance, there wasn’t a lot to go on to help a collector know this would end up being a huge deal. Marvel was starting a new line, like it's done before, with no guarantee if it would boom or bust. These ventures are more of a gamble than the covers are, but if you know your artists and writers, and you have a good feel of what's selling well and what's not, this venture can be a very profitable one.
Once a comic is graded, it is sent back, sealed in a thick, clear container with a certificate showing its official grade. Now that comic you may have just paid six bucks for is more than likely worth double that or even way more just because of the grading. As I mentioned before, older comics have some special rules to them. They are more expensive to grade, mostly due to age and value. In some special instances, comics can actually be more valuable ungraded. But this is really only with old, rare, valuable comics that are in horrible condition.
A great example is with a comic store I frequent. A man came in wanting to sell his copy of X-Men number one. The owner looked at him and told him he was unable to purchase the book as he did not have the money to pay what it was worth. The problem was that the man selling the comic was not a comic book fan or collector, and did not care about its worth. All he wanted was some extra cash and to get rid of some comics he found in his departed family member's attic. The man rolled the comic up under his arm and mistreated the book showing basically no care at all to the condition. The owner told him then and there he would pay him two hundred dollars for it just to get it out of the mans hands. That was painful to watch by the way, but the man took the money. As I spoke to the owner, he let me know that he was not going to send it to be graded. The condition of the book would more than likely have been close to a one or two which would have actually brought the asking price way down. But ungraded, this copy of “X-Men” number one sold a few months later for two thousand dollars. Grading is important to any collector, as is the cover art.
I was told they would try to get me a copy, and I told them if they did to just go ahead and send it off to be graded as soon as they got it in. It had been several, several months and I still never got one. I looked online the day after it released, and that cover was already selling for one hundred dollars ungraded. I smiled, knowing that while I may have missed a collectible opportunity, I had still done the right thing. To all of my fellow collectors out there, I wish you good luck, and remember to treat others the way you to would want to be treated. I’ll see you next week for The Next Issue.
A week after this horrific event, I found the platinum book was now selling for five hundred dollars, mint condition. I still had picked up a first printing of the normal book and a poly bag edition, but I felt so cheated still. I closed my file with that store and found a new place to take my business. Thus is the life of the collecting side of comics though. If all you want is to read the story you can always find ways to catch up nowadays, whether it’s a reprinting of the issue, a digital copy on a tablet, or even a graphic novel. But for those of us who want to get that extra special cover to go with it, we have to go that extra mile and swim with the sharks. A casual reader can just go online or hit the comic story itself, but for the collector, conventions and online shopping is our bread and butter. That’s not even the whole enchilada when you factor in grading. Yes, grading. Whereas twenty years ago just having the rare, only three ever printed covers was enough, now a book's asking price also depends on the grade it holds. The scale goes from zero to ten, but very rarely does it make it above a nine point eight. To give you perspective, lets say I had that platinum “Death of Superman” comic. At anything less than a nine point five, the book will most likely not sell online at all let alone on a store shelf. At nine point five I have alot of bargaining room, as I am more likely to get close to the full value the book is worth in your standard comic book price guide.